Recently, I tried to traditionally publish one of my previously self‑published books. When the publisher explained that I had to manually apply Microsoft Word styles from their template to all the paragraphs in my manuscript, I realized how inefficient traditional book‑creation process was. It also brought back memories of my struggles with LibreOffice/OpenOffice when I used to publish free ebooks on my site. (The old ebooks are still available for free.)
My automated book-creation process
Before I started self‑publishing in February 2020, I was determined to escape from this hassle. Because I am also a programmer, I was able to create a fast and efficient book‑creation process with a shell script. I wrote my manuscript in a plain‑text format known as MarkDown. (Its formatting is very minimalistic and intuitive.) The shell script converted the MarkDown text file to HTML. It also applied some CSS styles that I had written to format the HTML content. It then exported the formatted HTML to PDF. This PDF‑creation process is fast and takes only a few seconds to make changes.
The ebook‑creation process using Calibre is
manual automated but requires some manual document preparation because EPUB ebooks use XHTML. However, I use the same formatted HTML that I created for the PDF in the ebook-creation process as well. This ensures that the paperback and the ebook have the same look‑and‑feel.
My automated book‑creation process has greatly helped in self-publishing 26 books (29 titles) by February 2022. Also, remember that I write, edit and illustrate my books. I even do the covers myself.
UPDATE: My traditional publisher has agreed to receive the manuscript in MarkDown instead of one using the Word template. They are very open‑source‑friendly.
After two years in self-publishing, I finaly ran out of material to write. (All my hobbies and interests now manifest themselves as books.) Now, I have this amazingly efficient book-creation process for anyone who needs it. I have created all kinds of books with it:
- cartoon books
- heavily illustrated children's books with edge-to-edge colour and illustrations
- highly annotated programming/technical books
- colouring books (never published)
- puzzle books
You can check out free PDF samples of my books for ascertaining the efficiency of my process. The samples are low-resolution and watermarked. The final uploaded PDFs are infinitely better.
If you are writing a fiction book, then do not waste time formatting it. Do not even format it in Microsft Word. Use Word only for the grammar and spell check. Do not waste your money on any other writing aid.
If you are writing a children's book or a non-fiction book with lots of images, subheadings and bold/italicised text, some MarkDown formatting will be required on your part, as shown below:
Chapter Title ============= Subheading ---------- **Bolded** text. ### Sub-subheading *Italicized* text. 1. Ordered list item 1 2. Ordered list item 2 3. Ordered list item 3 4. Ordered list item 4 #### Sub-sub-subheading ***Bold and italicized*** text. ∗ Unordered list item ∗ Unordered list item ∗ Unordered list item ∗ Unordered list item ∗ Unordered list item ![Image description](image-filename.png)> Extracted text from another source… > > In other words, a text quotation.[www.VSubhash.in](http://www.vsubhash.in/commonmark.html "About my book CommonMark Ready Reference")
I have a free CommonMark Quick Reference chart as a downloadable PDF. You can learn MarkDown or CommonMark in no time.
There are a lot of free MarkDown/CommonMark editors. Download one for your OS. Windows users can try GhostWriter. I have never used it, as I am on Linux all the time. I used to use Markdown Writer FX. (It requires Java pre-installed.) It does not support complex Unicode characters so I use the default text editor in Linux. The default text editor in Windows is Notepad. It is feature-less and should be avoided. Use Notepad++ instead.
- Manuscript as
- a DOCX/ODS file (if it does not have a lot of images) OR
- a plain‑text file in MarkDown format (if it has lots of images). In ebooks, all images need to have descriptions. It is easier for you to put them in a MarkDown file.
- All tabular data (tables) in a DOCX/ODT document or XLSX/ODS spreadsheet.
- Images used in the book at 300 dpi in PNG format. For the ebooks, I will handle the conversion to JPEG.
- Mention the book metadata in a plain‑text file:
- Book title
- Author name
- Publisher name (same as author name if self-published)
- Copyright notice
- ISBNs and their formats (optional)
- Disclaimer (optional)
- Dedication (optional)
- Page dimensions. Remember that some book sizes cannot be sold outside Amazon.
- Is it full bleed? Cookbooks and childrens' books have edge-to-edge colour or illustrations.
- Is it large print? Books for small kids are usually printed with big fonts.
- Book cover image (optional)
- Publication date
- Book description
- Book cover image at 96 dpi
- Any other requirements
- Front page images (same dimensions as the paperback pages) at 300 dpi.
- containing the title (optional)
- containing the title and author name
- Custom font files (optional).
- PDF for paperback upload
- EPUB for ebook upload
- MarkDown for your revisions
The tool that I use to generate the PDFs does not have support for a gutter width. My workaround is to add the gutter width to the left and right margins for all pages.
A fiction title can be formatted as a PDF and an EPUB ebook in less than an hour. That will cost ₹1500 or $20. Children's books or non-fiction books with a lot of illustrations and tables will take longer and cost ₹1500 or $20 for every hour. As the number of hours increase, the price advantage will be lost.
It is best if all requirements are clearly spelled out in the book metadata file and there is no back-and-forth with changes. Send me the manuscript only after it has been fully reviewed by your copy-editor. Any subsequent revisions will have to be made in the MarkDown file by YOU.
There will be no cost extra for a paperback revision, assuming that it will be rarely needed. For the ebook, there will always be a cost for every revision. (The ebook-creation process is not fully automated.) However, Calibre allows YOU to edit EPUB ebooks. You do not need my help to edit finished ebooks.
I did all the covers for my books. If you are unable to spend extra for a professional cover or get a cover designer in time, I can create a temporary basic cover for free. You will have to accept it. There can be no criticism whatsoever 🤣 . When you eventually get a good cover from somewhere else, I will replace it for free.